Technological Immersion Learning: A Grounded Theory

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Virginia Tech


The Technological Immersion Learning Theory (TILT) was developed through a classic grounded theory study in the seminal tradition of Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Glaser (1978, 1992, 1998, 2001, 2007). The purpose of the study was to investigate an exemplary case of self-determined technology enthusiasts in the hopes of generating a substantive grounded theory that conceptualizes their experiences and concerns. Twelve unstructured interviews of amateur radio enthusiasts from the eastern United States provided the initial / primary data for this study. Experimenting and self-teaching in technological activities was highlighted as the main concern of the participants. The basic social process (BSP) of technological immersion learning (TIL) emerged as a theoretical construct and core variable that illuminates the experiences of individuals immersed in a community of practice, where hands-on engagement with technology is a primary activity. Adventuring, Affirmation, Doing Technology, Experimenting, Overcoming Challenge, Self-teaching, and Social Networking were properties of technological immersion learning that interact dialectically in an amplifying causal loop, with Problem solving and Designing as active sub processes in response to unmet challenges. TIL occurs cyclically in three stages, beginning with Induction, a credentialing stage wherein the neophyte is prepared with the necessary knowledge and skill to become a novice participant in an activity. The transition from Induction into the Immersion phase is a status passage whereby the novice is absorbed into the technical culture of the group and commences autonomous active participation in hands-on experimenting. Hands-on experiences with experimenting, problem solving and social interactions provide diverse learning and affirmation for the doer and multiple sources of feedback that promote sustained engagement. The transition into the Maturation phase proceeds gradually over time, with prolonged engagement and cumulative gains in knowledge, skill, and experience. Maturation is a quasi-stable state that remains responsive to new contexts as a random-walk process, wherein trigger events can initiate new cycles of technological immersion learning in a perpetually evolving process of personal development. Engagement, Empowerment, and Self-Actualization are underlying dimensions of the TIL basic social process that provide the impetus for continued persistence and personal development.



Technology Education, Integrative STEM Education, Self-directed learning, Autodidactism, Regenerative learning